3 of Paul McCartney’s Most Surprising Collaborations

Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo debut marked the start of a nearly 30-year collaboration with his wife Linda. Shortly after the Beatles‘ demise, McCartney followed up McCartney, which featured Linda, with his second album Ram in 1971. That same year, they expanded their musical partnership into Wings with Linda on keyboards, former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Denny Seiwell, and a collection of musicians.

Wings released seven albums from Wild Life in 1971 to Back to the Egg in 1979. Together, Paul and Linda co-wrote the majority of Wings tracks, including “Live and Let Die,” which would be used as the theme song of the 1973 James Bond film of the same name, along with more collaborations on Paul’s subsequent solo albums. They even co-penned “Six O’Clock” for Ringo Starr‘s 1973 solo album Ringo.

Following McCartney’s Thriller collaboration with Michael Jackson on “The Girl Is Mine,” Paul’s fourth solo album, Pipes of Peace, included two more collaborations with Jackson — “Say Say Say,” featuring Linda on backing vocals, and “The Man.”

The couple continued working together through Linda’s posthumous solo debut album Wide Prairie, released following her death from breast cancer in 1998.

On his own, McCartney’s collaborations have also spanned co-writes and duets with Carl Perkins and Stevie Wonder on his 1982 album Tug of War. McCarney also appeared on Perkins’ 1996 album Go Cat Go! and the duo’s co-written “My Old Friend.” After Elvis Costello penned a number of tracks for McCartney’s 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt, Macca returned the favor by co-writing his 1989 hit “Veronica” with him along with two tracks on Costello’s 1991 album Mighty Like a Rose.

Along with features on former Beatles’ George Harrison and Starr’s solo albums, McCartney’s other collaborations are endless. They span work with George Michael, Tony Bennett, Steve Miller Band, Brian Wilson, Carly Simon members of Nirvana, Kanye West, and dozens more.

Though the list of McCartney’s musical alliances over the past 50-plus years is lengthy and diverse, here’s a look at just three of his more surprising collaborations since the late ’80s.

1. “New Moon Over Jamaica” with Johnny Cash
Written by Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney and Tom T. Hall

Johnny Cash’s 75th album Water from the Wells of Home features his daughter Rosanne and the Everly Brothers on a cover of his 1958 song “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.” The project also features collaborations with longtime friend Waylon Jennings on “Sweeter Than the Flowers,” Hank Williams Jr. on “That Old Wheel,” and Emmylou Harris on “As Long As I Live,” among others.

Another new track, “New Moon Over Jamaica,” features a duet by Cash and McCartney, along with harmonies by June Carter Cash, Linda McCartney, and Tom T. Hall.

“New Moon Over Jamaica” came out of McCartney and Cash’s shared fondness for Jamaica. Cash loved Jamaica so much that he purchased a home there, the Cinnamon Hill Great House, and invited McCartney and his wife Linda over during one of their trips in the mid-1980s.

Staring at the moon one night, McCartney started penning “New Moon Over Jamaica,” which Cash later recorded with him after making a few modifications to the lyrics with Hall. McCartney also recorded a demo version of the song in a more reggae style.

There’s a new moon over Jamaica
And the new year just got here, you see
There’s a new moon over Jamaica
And I’m living with an old memory

So won’t you come back to Jamaica?
You know it isn’t so far
Look up in the sky where you left me that night
I’ll be standing right under that star

2. The Fireman

At first, it was a mystery who was behind The Fireman. In 1993, McCartney teamed up with Killing Joke bassist and mega-producer Youth (Martin Glover) for a more electronica-rock experimental project they coined The Fireman. The duo ended up producing three albums over 20 years. Those LPs featured Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest in 1993, Rushes in 1998, which were mostly voiceless tracks of atmospheric techno, along with their most recent collaboration, Electric Arguments, in 2008, which featured more prominent vocals by McCartney.

Mostly recorded at McCartney’s Hog Hill studio in Sussex, England, the two had a mostly improvisational approach to their albums.

“I would just come in every morning and have a groove cooking, like a cup of coffee, and then Youth and I would talk about it a little bit, or we’d talk about something else, we’d talk about, say, ‘Andy Warhol,’ just to get us in the mood,” revealed McCartney in 2009. “And then I’d sort of wander around and say, ‘How about a bit of guitar, a bit of bass, a bit of drums,’ so you’d have a backing track.’”

McCartney continued, “Inevitably, came the words-ideas-talking-literate thing. It was fascinating to try. And one of the things I liked about it, aside from the pure excitement, was realizing that I’d been writing songs for so long that if I was going to improvise, I probably, instinctively, was going to put a slight amount of form on it. And Youth is very good, I trust him, and he’d say, “Yeah, that’s it,” and so I knew we’d found a chorus and then we could mold around that. And suddenly I’d have a page full of lyrics, stealing three words from a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and then dipping into some poetry anthology that was lying about.”

3. ‘Paul McCartney III Reimagined‘

In 2021, McCartney released the third installation in the McCartney series of solo albums that started in 1970. McCartney III Imagined featured remixes of his McCartney III tracks by Damon Albarn (“Long Tailed Winter Bird”), Anderson .Paak (“When Winter Comes”), St. Vincent (“Women and Wives”), and Phoebe Bridgers (“Seize the Day”). The project also featured Dominic Fike and his version of “The Kiss of Venus,” and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme‘s “Lavatory Lil.”

Beck also took “Find My Way” to a funkadelic discothèque space, accompanied by an AI video of a younger McCartney traipsing through retro hotel halls, rooms and other psychedelic scenes.

On “Find My Way,” Beck says that he took the vocals and started from scratch. “I’ll just build a whole new song, and that particular song, I actually changed it from major to minor, so I had to do a little bit of altering, but I think it served the groove a bit,” said Beck. “Paul did the album himself as well, playing on the instruments, so it’s sort of done in the spirit of the record that he made. I think that’s what is great about remixes. It completely takes liberties and takes the song somewhere unexpected.”

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